This afternoon, Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz signed a new agreement between the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which she leads, and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Franz was joined by Forest Service Region 6 Director Jim Peña for the signing ceremony in the cavernous rotunda of the Natural Resources Building in Olympia.
The Good Neighbor Master Agreement allows DNR and USFS to work together across boundaries and ownership types to collaboratively approach restoration on some of our state’s most iconic landscapes. The agreement allows for more efficient use of federal and state resources, including funding and staff expertise, to benefit public lands under different types of ownership. Economic benefits extend to residents of the communities that depend on resilient forests through job creation and marketing of sustainably harvested timber and wood products. Peña called the agreement a “win-win for healthy forests and for Washingtonians.”
A statement from DNR highlighted the habitat-connectivity, species-recovery and wildfire-prevention benefits that these watershed-scale and large cross-boundary collaborations can bring to communities and wildlife that depend on healthy forests. Agency leaders said the Good Neighbor agreement’s value to Washington communities whose livelihoods, safety and culture are so closely tied to forest resilience “cannot be understated.”
The Nature Conservancy in Washington is proud to partner with a diverse coalition of stakeholders interested in forest health and community resilience in our state. The Forest & Community Resiliency Roundtable includes representatives from the timber industry, environmental non-profits, tribes, state agencies, mill operators, the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network and all of Washington’s eight forest collaboratives, among others. Many Roundtable members were in attendance Friday to cheer an agreement that will pay off ecologically, economically and socially for forest communities.
The Good Neighbor Authority was permanently authorized as part of the 2014 federal Farm Bill, and is an excellent example of the cross-boundary “all lands” approach to restoration for which Roundtable members have been advocating in Olympia and in other arenas around the state.